JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film was my first introduction to the franchise, and, looking back, I’m still quite fond of that movie. While I initially quite enjoyed his 2013 followup, Star Trek Into Darkness (my review), here we are three years later and I’ve still only seen it the one time I saw it in the theater despite owning it on Blu-Ray…it just isn’t a movie that really stuck with me or demanded rewatches. That being said, I was wary of director Justin Lin – most known for his ventures in the Fast and Furious franchise – taking over for the third installment, but…wow. What a great movie!
Taking place three years after the events of Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond places the beloved crew of the USS Enterprise in deep space, exploring new worlds and seeking allies for the Federation. Shortly after arriving at Starbase Yorktown, the crew, still led by Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), is sent out on a rescue mission into an uncharted nebula, where they are attacked by a creature named Krall and his massive crew. With the Enterprise destroyed, the crew separated, and hope diminishing, Kirk must find a way to rescue his crew and to save the universe at the same time.
It should be noted that all three of the new-Trek films so far noticeably borrow from what is widely regarded as the best Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan (my review): Star Trek utilizes the Kobayashi Maru test that was first introduced in TWOK, Star Trek Into Darkness uses its main villain and directly imitates entire scenes, and Star Trek Beyond explores the same themes of mortality and sacrifice. I would argue that Beyond does this with the most success because it takes familiar themes and applies them to the different situations that the characters find themselves in rather than lifting direct story or scene elements, making the comparisons more subtle and therefore more effective. I can also give this movie the same compliment that I gave TWOK: it feels like an extended episode of the TV series in all the best ways. It really is masterfully done.
The characters this time around are established and don’t require the “set up” that they received in the first two films; they’re now largely the characters we know and love from the original television show and movie series. Chris Pine’s Kirk is a leader who is confident in his abilities and his responsibilities as a captain, but he’s also at a point in his life where he doesn’t know what’s next for him. It’s not that he has insecurities but rather that he is struggling to find the meaning of their continued exploration in uncharted space. We’re able to see his growth over the course of the film as he realizes that his crew is his family and that he would be out of place if he was placed anywhere aside from the bridge of a starship (the same conclusion William Shatner’s Kirk reaches in The Wrath of Khan through different circumstances). The introduction of his famous “captain’s log” in the new-Trek franchise is also an excellent touch.
As captain, Kirk continues to be the main character, but the supporting characters are definitely not tossed to the side here; in fact, we get many great moments with each of the classic members of the crew. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban), two characters with a history of a somewhat antagonistic relationship, are paired together for much of the film, resulting in some hilarious banter but also some tender moments of expressed friendship and overcoming obstacles. Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), and Uhura (Zoë Saldana) all get their moments in the limelight as well. Thankfully, Anton Yelchin as Chekov is given much screentime as he’s paired with Kirk; his work here only continues to show how truly devastating it is that he has left us so soon. Lastly, Sofia Boutella as the newcomer Jaylah was fantastic as a strong female character who was able to hold her own, and, in fact, much of the film would not have been possible without her character’s actions.
I think this movie’s biggest issue is its villain. Idris Elba is an incredible actor, and he did an admirable job here as Krall, but an actor can only do so much when hidden behind that much CGI. His character’s motivations are revealed towards the end of the film, and they’re understandable to a certain extent, but I think that as the antagonist his main purpose was definitely to provide a scenario for our heroes to grow and interact with each other in meaningful ways. The visual effects behind Krall and his fleet of bee-like ships was very well done and made for exciting action sequences. While I’m mentioning technical effects in the movie, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up returning composer Michael Giacchino’s wonderful score; his universe building is fantastic and continues to offer some of the best sci-fi music out there. And, of course, I have to say how awesome the pop music used is, in one scene in particular…I won’t spoil it here, and I certainly wouldn’t think that a scene like that would ever appeal to me, but it’s possibly the most fun scene in the whole movie.
I’ve said a few times recently, like in my written review for Blade Runner, that what sci-fi as a genre does best is ask questions and present new ideas, and Star Trek Beyond does that extremely well. It asks us to consider mortality and our friendships with others, and it does so within a fantastical setting that keeps us engrossed without distracting us from the point. When I learned that Justin Lin was directing this movie, I was concerned – Fast and Furious lies far outside my usual range of interest – but I could not have been proven more wrong; he accomplishes so much here with an amazing script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. Star Trek Beyond is without a doubt my favorite of the new Star Trek films, and it makes me even more excited for future films in the franchise.
MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Leave a comment | tags: anton yelchin, bones mccoy, captain kirk, chadadada, chadlikesmovies, chris pine, jj abrams, john cho, justin lin, karl urban, khan, Michael Giacchino, scotty, simon pegg, spock, Star Trek, star trek beyond, star trek into darkness, star trek the wrath of khan, the wrath of khan, zachary quinto, zoë saldana | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Recommended, Recommended, Scores
I must confess to something: before this film, I hadn’t seen any of the Jack Ryan-centric movies, meaning The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears, which is apparently a big deal. I own Patriot Games but haven’t gotten around to watching it, and The Hunt for Red October has been on my list for a while as well. Anyway, the point is that I had no established expectation for this character; I just knew that it was a reboot, and that it was the first Jack Ryan film to not be based on one of Tom Clancy’s original novels. My expectations weren’t too high, which I suppose is a good thing because I walked away moderately pleased.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (re?)introduces us to Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), a CIA analyst who has a past as a Marine but left due to severe injury. He is engaged to Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), a physician who helped him to recover following his accident. When Ryan discovers a discrepancy with bank accounts connected to Russian tycoon Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a discrepancy that might endanger the economy of the United States, he flies to Moscow to get to the bottom of it, but he is nearly killed upon arrival, forcing him to resort to his military training and take care of business in a way atypical of his position as an analyst. Tensions rise as he comes into contact with Cherevin himself, is suspected of infidelity by his fiancé, and is joined by his supervisor, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) in a race to stop Cherevin and save the US.
Chris Pine as Ryan was the best part of this movie. The backstory provided at the start of the film showing how he joined the Marines as a response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center gives us an emotional reason to invest in his decision, and his subsequent injury resulting from trying to save another Marine further solidifies that investment. He has a likable personality and does well in the action film setting thanks to his charisma and confidence. Kenneth Branagh both directs the film and plays Cherevin, and though I liked parts of his portrayal, it also seemed to me that his attempts at what I can best describe as “Russian stoicism” often seemed flat and uninteresting. There isn’t really anything to say about Kevin Costner except that he did an acceptable job without being stellar, as did Knightley as Ryan’s fiancée, though her American accent was inconsistent and, frankly, laughable.
My biggest complaint about the film – aside from the fact that the villain’s evil scheme was actually pretty confusing – is the abundance of overreactions from multiple characters throughout. At one point, Knightley’s character suspects Ryan of cheating on her with another woman because she finds a movie ticket stub in his pocket…sounds like cheating to me! She then flies to Russia like it’s not a big deal just to confront him on what she thinks is a business trip. This is most obvious example of what I’m talking about, but Cherevin and a couple of other minor characters have similar reactions for no reason at later points in the film.
Patrick Doyle’s score was actually pretty decent. I haven’t listened to it outside of the film itself, but what I heard in the film did an excellent job at propelling the action forward and building the tension/anxiety of the plot up. Doyle’s scores have been hit and miss for me in the past (well, more accurately, his score to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a HUGE miss), but I was relatively pleased here.
Though I was a bit confused at time and irritated at others, this movie did a fairly decent job at keeping me interested and on the edge of my seat throughout. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit may have been my first venture into the world of Jack Ryan, and it may not have been an overwhelmingly positive one, but, to the film’s credit, it has piqued my interest in the character himself, so I am looking forward to looking backward at the previous films in this character’s history.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language
Leave a comment | tags: chris pine, clear and present danger, jack ryan, jack ryan shadow recruit, keira knightley, kenneth branagh, kevin costner, patrick doyle, patriot games, the hunt for red october, the sum of all fears, tom clancy | posted in 3, Books, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
I first read the plot summary of Rise of the Guardians somewhere in the beginning months of 2012, and I thought that it was one of the most ridiculous plot summaries that I had ever read. However, that all changed when I saw the trailer for the first time a few months later; the animation was beautiful and the idea of putting twists on all of these supernatural beings that we grew up believing in seemed like a lot of fun, and I suddenly became extremely excited to see this movie. Unfortunately, when I was finally able to see the film a couple of days before Christmas, I was highly disappointed.
The failure of the film isn’t in its re-imagining of beloved childhood heroes, which I thought was done rather well (Alec Baldwin’s Russian-inspired Santa Claus was particularly amusing), but rather in its inability to tell the story implied by its title. Instead of being treated to a story of how the Guardians – Santa, Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Tooth Fairy – came into existence, or at least how they joined together to protect the children of the world, we’re introduced to Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, who can’t be seen by people because they don’t believe in him. Throughout the movie, Jack is searching for his past, which he can’t remember, and it’s his search for answers that becomes the focus of the film. The actual Guardians take a backseat to this quest, and it often seems forced, especially in the film’s relatively short run time of an hour and a half.
Regrettably, even if you take Jack Frost out of the picture and focus solely on the Guardians and on the antagonist, Pitch (i.e. The Boogeyman), there are plenty of problems. The Guardians rely on children believing in them to fuel their powers, so when Pitch interferes with the Guardians’ duties and causes children to stop believing in them, they start to lose their power. This is all fine and dandy and makes sense, but the problem I have is that the film implies that disbelief in one Guardian results in disbelief in the others…which doesn’t even make sense. For example, Pitch prevents the Tooth Fairy from collecting teeth and leaving coins, so the children not only stop believing in the Tooth Fairy (as if every child in the world was waiting for their teeth to be taken anyway), but also in the other Guardians. Personally, I don’t think that disbelief in the Tooth Fairy or in the Sandman would affect my belief in a being like Santa, who plays such a huge part in our popular culture. Aside from that problem, which particularly bothered me, Santa’s helpers, which comprise of elves and yetis, seem to be just cheap imitations of the Minions from Universal’s Despicable Me.
I had high hopes for this film, perhaps too high, which made my disappointment all the more upsetting. The film boasts an all-star cast, wonderful animation, and a beautiful score by composer Alexandre Desplat, but none of that is enough to save itself from a plot that is far less inspired than what was promised by both the trailers and the title. I wish that things had turned out differently, but, as much as it pains me to say it, Rise of the Guardians failed to captivate me like I had hoped, but, to a less critical person, it may be decent enough to entertain.
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG – for thematic elements and some mildly scary action
P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, here!
2 Comments | tags: alec baldwin, Alexandre Desplat, chris pine, Christmas, Despicable Me, Dreamworks, easter bunny, guardians, jack frost, pitch, rise of the guardians, sandman, santa claus, tooth fairy, universal | posted in 2, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores